MIDDLETOWN, Conn.—Twenty schools throughout Connecticut have joined the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to boost literacy skills and foster a positive school environment for all students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, and students learning English.

The CT State Department of Education (CSDE), SERC, and other grant partners recently selected the schools for the 2011-2014 Cohort of Connecticut’s State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG). Ultimately, 100 schools will take part in the $4.6 million grant over the next five years, with a goal of building the state’s capacity to establish a continuum of academic and behavioral supports statewide.

Connecticut was one of eight states awarded federal funds in October 2011. The 20 schools in the first cohort represent 12 districts—Bridgeport, Colchester, Franklin, Killingly, Manchester, Montville, New Fairfield, New Haven, Plainfield, Region 14, Region 16, and Windham—as well as one charter school. (A complete list of the schools is below.)

The SPDG will address two challenges simultaneously: increasing reading achievement through strategic instruction and reducing discipline referrals through positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). The unique pairing of these two outcomes—literacy and behavior—recognizes that student success can often be directly linked with social skills and the opportunity to learn in a safe and respectful environment.

The SPDG essentially has three goals: training schools on research-based practices to address behavioral interventions and reading instruction (Scientific Research-Based Interventions, or SRBI); creating and sustaining statewide systems to support educators in implementing these practices; and tracking student data to ensure all students are achieving at higher levels. School-based teams will participate in professional learning, including on-site technical assistance, to expedite implementation.

The expectation is that all schools will fully implement a comprehensive approach to SRBI by the third year of participation in the grant. This approach aims to eliminate the predictability of achievement gaps between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers, between students of color and their white peers, and between English language learners and their English-speaking peers.

A statewide reporting system will collect, track, and disseminate literacy data, major discipline referral rates, and the performance of students with disabilities in participating schools. The goal of the 100 schools will be to increase the percent of students at grade level or above in reading by at least 10 percent each year; decrease the number of referrals for major discipline problems to less than .39 per 100 students; and improve the performance of students with disabilities as measured by the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT).

SERC is coordinating the SPDG on behalf of the CT State Department of Education (CSDE). Other project partners include the CT Parent Information and Resource Center (CT PIRC), the Center for Behavioral Education & Research at the University of Connecticut, the regional educational service centers (RESCs), the CT Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC), the State Department of Children and Families (DCF), the juvenile justice system, and the Birth to Three System.

SERC, in collaboration with the RESC Alliance, will provide trainers and coaches to support the efforts of participating schools. Glen Martin Associates, a Troy, N.Y.-based consulting firm that the state used for its previous SPDG, will expand its program evaluation role for this grant.

SERC will seek applications for an additional 40 schools to participate in the 2012-2015 Cohort that will begin in September 2012.

Schools selected for the first cohort are listed below.

District School
Bridgeport Read School
Colchester Jack Jackter Intermediate School
Colchester Johnston Middle School
Franklin Franklin Elementary School
Killingly Killingly Central School
Killingly Killingly Memorial School
Manchester Verplanck Elementary School
Manchester Bowers Elementary School
Montville Oakdale Elementary School
New Fairfield New Fairfield Consolidated School
New Haven Celentano Museum Academy
Odyssey Charter Odyssey Community School (Manchester)
Plainfield Shepard Hill Elementary School
Plainfield Moosup Elementary School
Region 14 Woodbury Middle School
Region 16 Laurel Ledge School (Beacon Falls)
Windham Natchaug Elementary School
Windham Sweeney Elementary School